Sunday, 16 August 2015

Time Hop -the big hair fall out

Tonight I saw something on my Facebook time hop from 15th August last year. It was about getting to that point where I needed to shave my head. 

Bloody hell, Two things -
1. Was that 12 months ago?
2. How on earth did I get through chemo?

Ok so 3 things -why the hell hasn't my hair grown back already??

Wow, I can't believe it, I have no idea how I even got here. Someone recently asked me what advice I would give to someone who's just had that devastating news and was about to start chemo. What would I say? I would probably start with a big sigh, and say that they can do it, you don't have a choice and there isn't anything that can prepare you for it. Ask questions and join a support group. And then sigh again and probably well up.

My little coven (aka 7 bitches) have been discussing this tonight, looking back at last summer, old pictures, most of my treatment has been recorded with pictures, I still can't work out if that's a good thing. Sometimes they make me realise just how far I've come but then other times they provoke an unwelcome emotion. Having my coven helps, today both the girls and the pictures help. 

So this is it, my hair diary....

30th June 2014 -just washed, dried and straightened my hair for the last time.
After I took this photo I burst into tears. There was no going back, everyone I knew would now know that I had cancer, the fear of the unknown was setting in, in less than 24 hours I would be having my first chemotherapy.

1st July 2014 - Dreaded Cold Cap and 1st Chemo.
At this point the cap had been on for a few hours, before this point I'd cried, felt unbelievably sick and wanted to take it
off. The pain of the cold cap is torture, I did it once and it didn't work, I lost my hair anyway (secretly relieved), I have no idea how people manage to do this 6,7,8+ times, (Sarah Perry you're baddass).

This was taken on the night of my first chemo, Arron said that he could tell that I was starting to fade as I was sinking further into the sofa and was starting to become very spaced out...

Behind that smile I was terrified, probably the most scared I've ever been in my whole life.  This smile was now to become my mask, on the inside I was crying hysterically. At around 2am the next morning I felt the full effects of my first chemo, it's a very strange feeling, it feels surreal almost out of body, the sickness is nothing I've ever experienced before, ever. It's nothing like a hangover, stomach bug, gastroenteritis, it's indescribable, vile. I told Arron that I was done, I didn't want anymore.

22nd July 2014 - The fall out begins
After chemo 1, I lost a fair bit of hair, it was everywhere, Arron tried to hide it and I would often catch him scooping it up when he thought I wasn't looking. My sister Hollie had the unfortunate task of washing my hair for me as I didn't have the energy to do it myself. This was heartbreaking, I'm crying now just thinking and writing about it. Her hands were visibly shaking, she was terrified that it would all come out, I never thought that my little sister would have to do this for me.

In order to try and save my hair I could only wash it once a week, couldn't blow dry or straighten it, couldn't tie it back, and may as well forget about brushing it. Sounds strange but I was very conscious of it, not particularly how it looked but about it falling out. I would try and sit up straight and not have my head resting on anything, this made my neck and shoulders hurt, I couldn't sleep because I was conscious of moving my head of the pillow and pulling it out, was hair that important? Part of me wanted to just shave it off but having had long blonde hair for most of my adult life this was very scary. Hollie then asked her friend to cut it for me.

I insisted on keeping my glasses on because I looked bloody awful.

Over the next week my 2nd chemo was delayed due to the mother of all tooth infections, second to Tax bone pain this was one of the most horrendous pains I've ever felt, probably because along with this I had a number of other things going on too...

29th July 2014 -2nd Chemo 
There's that smile again. No more cold capping for me, I'd lost too much hair, (secretly relieved). But by now the pain had started to set in, it's almost like when you've had your hair tied up all day and then you take it down, but imagine that all over your head, all day, all night. Plus of course the other real side effects of that particular chemo -mouth ulcers, thrush, tonsillitis, nausea, vomiting,UTI...


That day I also picked out my wig, from a book so couldn't try it on, the options were very limited for someone my age as most were what I would call typical old school wigs -think 80's short slightly curly... Maybe ok for someone in their 60's maybe? I was 31. Luckily I managed to find one called Stevie, but he had to be ordered so I couldn't take him home that day.

28th August 2014 -enough is enough
Everyone around me, including the hospital kept telling me not to shave it off,  I'd be too upset, it would be more painful than at the present time. I woke up that morning brushed my teeth and couldn't believe what was staring back at me in the mirror. This was the first time I'd noticed just how ill I looked.

I just stared at the mirror, and at 10:49am I shaved my head. There were no tears, no pain, just relief.

I didn't like it, but it was more comfortable, the pain had completely gone, it was the middle of summer and bloody hot, plus I was in a chemical induced menopause and having hot flushes every half hour, ok maybe not that often but it felt like it, so being bald was actually quite comfortable. Something else that no one seems to tell you is that when you've shaved your head you stick to your pillow like Velcro!! Amen for my silk pillow, not only could I glide my head through the night but it actually stayed nice and cool.

Then I had an impromptu wig party. Well basically everyone wanted to try on my wigs, I say wigs, because I developed a new obsession -buying shit loads of wigs, some would arrive in the post and I had no recollection of ordering them...

Wig party


Its amazing how different you feel once you're wearing a wig, for me clothes seem to look better, and surprisingly not every outfit goes with a bald head...

Stevie -my NHS wig

The wig that JoJo picked 

Brown hair don't care...

Grey matters....

The obsession continues 
Whilst wearing a wig is nice at times it can be a massive pain in the arse. Itching, sweating, unbelievabley hot (teamed with the sweats is not a good look), having to be weather conscious at all times, having to designate someone to be on "wig watch" for any minor (or major) mishaps, constantly checking the mirror (if wig watch person is AWOL or if your on your own), body contact with others must be kept to a minimum -I've lost count of the number of people who have gone in for a hug and have pulled my wig back...

When in the right frame of mind I felt ok going bald, this was mainly before I lost my eyebrows and lashes, I don't think that I ever went out in public sporting the generic cancer face, and this is why -

 The times when I did go out or let people see me bald took a lot of planning. As I've already said, not every outfit goes with a bald head. To people on the outside they might claim to be jealous that all we have to do is put makeup on and get dressed, ie no washing/drying/styling of the hair. Little do they know that it's actually taken twice as long, a lot of tears and many outfit changes, plus when you get home it looks like you've been broken into for all the clothes thrown around your room.

The final head shave was on Xmas day, my head was a ball of fluff, even Arron suggested one last shave, and bless him he shaved it for me -Happy Christmas!

Since then it started growing fairly well, not as well as I'd hoped -it didn't grow down my back overnight with soft blonde  curls, but it's growing. 



2nd May 2015 -first hair cut


And so it keeps on growing, slowly. I've been asked if I've had it highlighted, sigh, but that's just how it's come back. The ends now look lighter, and Ive achieved the 14 year old boy look of the 90's. Is it the end of the world? No. Do I like it? No. But at the end of the day it's only hair... Eyebrows, however are a completely different matter ...